Leader Peter O'Keeffe
(Photo Courtesy of Cashman Photography)
NEWCASTLE, Ireland (May 13, 2017) - Experience was Peter O'Keeffe's trump card as he played his way in front on a torrid third day at the Flogas Irish Amateur Open.
Winds gusting 28mph howled across the links at Royal County Down, bringing mist and rain and all sorts of trouble. Only two players broke par and O'Keeffe's fine 73 took him to the top. Level par after 54 holes, the 35-year-old Douglas challenger is one clear of Scotland's Christopher MacLean.
"I'm feeling the experience I have is valuable," O'Keeffe ventured. "I kept it as steady as possible on the back nine, I was accepting that people were going to drop shots so when I do drop shots, I'm not panicking."
One behind heading out, O'Keeffe burst to life with an eagle at the first. For much of the day, he toyed with England's Sean Towndrow for the lead, but fell two behind with a three-putt bogey on 14 as Towndrow made back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13.
However, Towndrow repeated O'Keeffe's error. That seemed immaterial when the towering Englishman eagled 16, holing out from 100 yards with a sand wedge. Sadly, his good work was quickly undone.
"The last two holes killed me," said Towndrow, bemoaning costly double-bogeys on 17 and 18. "It was just an up and down day really."
Even though O'Keeffe bogeyed the last, level par was best on show. Scotland's Christopher MacLean is one behind after a 74 and Belvoir Park's Marc Norton is tied third on plus two following a 75.
In Norton's words: "It was just absolute survival."
Feeling nature's wrath turning for home, he was happy to return.
"75 is not bad out there today," was his assessment. "At the start knowing the conditions, I would have been happy enough."
Tramore's Robin Dawson (71) and Portmarnock's James Fox (75) remain in the hunt, albeit four shots behind. Defending champion Colm Campbell survived the cut thanks to a gutsy 71. Campbell made it through on the number. In total, 51 players made it through, the cut falling at 10 over.
The leaders begin at 11.12am on Sunday morning and if similar conditions prevail, James Fox knows what score he would like to post.
"I would say if it's still windy tomorrow, one under or level par will win. You'd definitely take it," was his view.
He can emulate brother Noel with a win tomorrow. Whatever way the final round unfolds, the tale will be compelling.
ABOUT THE Irish Amateur Open
First played in 1892 and held every year with
exception of the War Years up to 1959, and
revived in 1995, the Irish Amateur Open can
a strong history of producing great Champions
including Joe Carr (three times), Jimmy
Tom Craddock, Padraig Harrington, Michael
Noel Fox, Louis Oosthuizen and Pedro
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